Coming into the Breck 32, I knew I was a bit behind the game. I had put off the race in my mind for a few months, mostly because I was wishing I could do the 68 mile version instead but knew it was still too early in my time in Colorado to tackle that. I also just knew that hadn’t really targeted anything specific for the race. Since DK200, I just haven’t been too motivated when on the bike.
We got into town earlier and spent a long day helping out at the race on Saturday. I spent time helping with the setup and registration. By late in the evening I could feel my body was tightening up and my legs were a bit tired from being on my feet from about 9:30. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do before the race, but I didn’t fret too much because I knew I was just here to ride, right?
Sunday morning I helped out again for a while before it was time to duck out, change, and get ready for racing. As I’m warming up on some pavement, I can tell today is going to be difficult. My legs were feeling like lead. I did a couple of short rides up the hill that we were going to start on and my speed was maybe 8-9 mph while staying “comfortable”. I knew the fast guys would obviously smoke me, but I was worried everyone would! And at the start line I found that the starting pavement section was longer than I thought…
The start went off and people started to drag race away from me. I may have already been delusional, but I thought I saw myself at the back of the race within the 1st turn on the road. The road climb was fun but I was still stressing about the way my legs felt. I paced up with a few riders and ended up working with a few. When the gradient would level out a bit, I would feel better. As soon as it got steep people came back around me.
After too much time we finally hit some gravel road, the gradient leveled to a false flat and I could feel a bit of snap to my legs. And then we had this killer gravel road descent after the first set climb. This helped me feel good because I passed a few people here. I knew this would give way to another climb, but I was feeling OK if I could catch people on descents…
Then I met Little French. All in all, this wasn’t a bad climb. It starts out with a little bit of easy-to-roll rocks and bit of fun picking your line through the rocks. But then you start to get a few kick ups and a growing number of rocks. The rider in front of me stopped to walk and I tried to push on, but picked a bad line in the haze of driving up the climb. So I started walking. In the Midwest it always seemed like if you walked a climb two things would happen: the climb would end soon so you could get back on or you would get to another piece of the climb that would be easy to get back on. This climb just kept getting steep and getting technical. Don’t get me wrong, the climb is completely manageable and rideable. I was walking telling myself that I could ride this. Towards the top someone hopped on their bike and I thought that would be good to try. I made it about 20 feet and couldn’t really push the gears anymore. I hopped off and my legs quivered. This was going to be a long day. LF is the 1st major climb of the day! Only two more mountains to go…
The top of Little French had an amazingly fun narrow singletrack section, situated in some trees on the edge of the gulch, followed by a blistering fun gravel road. I was still a bit mentally shelled from the first climb and just paced down with another rider for awhile, avoiding catching much area on the many kicks. I did take a few of the large berms for fun though. Yay!
I grabbed some of my food as I passed the first aid station for this loop and eventually reached the next climb. This was a fun section with some tight, but manageable switch backs to power through. I remember gearing up for a slight down hill to find a steep grade that I had to hammer through in a tall gear. And my legs hated me more. On this climb I began to figure out that I didn’t really have a very happy spot to be pedal.
In my lowest gear (that I trusted), I could pedal at my cadence, but my heart rate would get too high. Or I could pedal at a much slower cadence and get stuck with tired legs. It was on this climb that I found the first of two guys doing the ultra (100 miles) and a couple doing the 68 mile race. But as this climb went on… I began to really fade. The climb wouldn’t end. I kept yo-yoing with riders. And kept telling myself: “MTFU… just pedal to that tree and then take a break … shut up legs, we’re pedaling”. It went on like this for a while. Then I started to get a few false descents … teasers really followed by small climbs.
As I started the second descent on the Colorado Trail… the rain hit. I had felt drops here or there, but now it was cold and definitely raining. But the descending stayed pretty sane. The roots didn’t get slick and there were very few rocks in this part of the trail. What a fun descent! And after a smaller climb the descent down to Tiger road was also a blast. By this time the rain had stopped and I prepared for the final climb. It started with some narrow singletrack through a resort/golf course development, followed by a never-ending gravel climb. I kept looking at my GPS and reading how far I had been. “This says 27 miles… so like only 5 more miles or something”. I caught back up to another racer doing the marathon, but eventually he would pass me as I walked some of the hill. As we approached the top of the hill I could spot the mountains near Breckenridge… and I thought I just might make it. I was suffering. I had been stuck in a pain cave … unsure of what was happening. At one point a racer who caught up to us said, “I’m going to cry if we have to go up hill again.” Just around the corner there was another hill.
Near the end of the race, I thought I could see the park below us. I figured we would be dropping down to it soon, but didn’t really know where the course was going to lead. I picked a spot, put it in the big ring and tried to blaze down some fun, slightly uphill singletrack. And eventually I was on this fun Klondike-like trail down the mountain fighting the bike through some rocks. And with a bit of pavement and a touch of singletrack I finally pulled into the finish area.
Unfortunately, in my haze I followed the wrong signs and didn’t ride through the finish correctly. I nearly lost it when the timing crew snarkly asked what I “wanted them to do about it”. I had finished the race. And while I hadn’t quit and I hadn’t finished last, I was quite disappointed in myself. There was nothing on the course that I felt was too technical or difficult. I just hadn’t prepared myself for it. At other races I had trouble with, like Syllamo, I could feel like I had done my preparations but there was just something that wouldn’t let me finish or would put me back. This wasn’t the same. I felt like the race was well within what I should be able to handle. A race is going to be difficult no matter what — the challenge is part of the appeal.
Now it’s the week before another race in a much flatter area at a lower elevation. I’ve been sick this week a bit, but here’s hoping this race brings back some good feelings on the bike.
Ride details: http://app.strava.com/rides/13638069